DVD The King Of Fighters
Following in the footsteps of such cinematic masterpieces as Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter and Tekken, The King Of Fighters is a popular fighting game from the mid-1990s which has now been transformed into a live action movie. Movies inspired by games have typically struggled to provide the same level of entertainment as the original source material, often caught between appealing to the hardcore support and providing a film understandable to the everyday viewer. So does The King Of Fighters offer a knockout blow to its predecessors, or is the experience closer to receiving a punch below the belt?
Combatants from around the world meet in another dimension for the King of Fighters tournament, where challenges are issued and contestants are transported to the venue via a Bluetooth headset. The action focuses upon Rugal Bernstein (Ray Park) who steals three artefacts – The Kagura Mirror, the Yagami Necklace and the Kusanagi Sword – and takes them to the other dimension with the aim of awakening the mythical dragon/snake like creature the Orochi, with which he can gain limitless powers in the King of Fighters world.
Fortunately, his hopes are dashed when the sword is revealed to be a fake, with the original being in the possession of Kyo Kusanagi (Sean Faris). Following some convincing as to the truth behind the fighting realm, Kyo joins the quest to defeat Rugal alongside Mai Shiranui (Maggie Q) and Iori Yagami (Will Yun Lee). However, all is not quite as it seems with Yugami, following his retirement from the King of Fighters tournament for reasons unknown.
Will the gang be able to stop Rugal before he obtains unstoppable power, enough to control both the fighting realm and the entire world?
If the plot sounds somewhat convoluted, that’s because it is – and unnecessarily so. Viewers of the film are there to see the action and intense fights from their favourite gaming characters on the big screen. Attempts to fill the film with an education of the lore behind this world is arguably pointless, given it does little to improve knowledge of what is going on, dragging down the pacing and making things more confusing than entertaining – they should have focussed on the fighting and the tournament itself. While the existence of a tournament is mentioned frequently, it is never fully explained quite what this means in practice. The fights are random, or are linked to the quest involved in the plot, thus not really having anything to do with any kind of tournament format.
The action sequences that do exist are not all that bad, with entertaining fights and some impressive use of CGI. Characters are able to make use of some of their special abilities (presumably consistent with those in the game), which is impressive given the tendency towards realism in many such transfers. However, an explanation as to what the limits of these are would have been useful, as the power and frequency of usage suggests the martial arts aspect of the encounters is largely redundant.
Arguably, the most damning aspect of the movie is in the performances of the lead cast.
Arguably, the most damning aspect of the movie is in the performances of the lead cast. In their defence, they clearly aren’t given the best script to work with, but this is a clear example of actors eyeing an easy payday. The normally solid Maggie Q is below par, Ray Park’s Rugal is a generic by the numbers bad guy, while Sean Faris’s Ryo is as wooden as you’ll find. Although his presence will at least make you curious about genetics, given the very-Japanese father he has in the film.
The direction will not win many fans either, thanks to an over-obsessive use of purple lighting, resulting in the whole film having an almost pornographic feel. Meanwhile, the decision to film random scenes with the camera tilted at an odd angle is bizarre and serves no purpose.
Gaming is a billion dollar industry, and with many of the leading titles garnering a large and loyal fanbase, it is easy to see the appeal for filmmakers in targeting this audience. However, while such games typically have readymade storylines to potentially make use of, many films have struggled to emulate them, perhaps due to an ignorance over the subject matter or as a result of the difficulty involved in finding a means of translating the plot into an entertaining film. That’s not to say that all movies translated from games are terrible, but it would be hard to find many which have met the often lofty expectations. Unfortunately, The King Of Fighters does little to improve upon the reputation of game to movie transfers.
The King Of Fighters is not without redeeming features, indeed some of the CGI and action sequences are very good. The film is not afraid to introduce more outlandish elements, such as fireballs, although a bit of explanation as to actually what is and what isn’t possible in this other dimension would have been helpful. Sadly, for fans of the game, they are likely to be disappointed by some very poor performances from the cast and a somewhat disjointed movie, which is unlikely to spawn much of a following or further sequels. On the evidence of this effort, that will be no great loss to the silver screen.
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